When an artist creates, we get to enjoy what's been made when it's shared with us. No one can take credit for what an artist creates. Even if we take ownership of the art, that piece is still attached to its creator. We celebrate Van Gogh's Starry Night, DaVinci's Mona Lisa, and Michelangelo's David. The art we enjoy flowed out of the artist's creativity and life.
What God created he called good (and very good). He is the Creator of the Universe: the One who breathed life into us, the One who sustains all life on the earth, the One who set everything in its place and has given all things purpose, the One who hung the stars in place and caused the waters to flow on the earth and blood to pulse through our veins. It is His. We are His.
And He claims unique ownership and love for what He has made.
Exodus 20 tells the story of Moses going up Mt. Sinai to meet with God. For over 400 years, Israel had remained captive in Egypt, and now they were free and on their way to the land God had promised them. They had lived under the law of the Pharaohs for centuries and were out of touch with what it meant to be God's covenantal people. He gave them this law as a foundation for their lives.
"You shall have no other gods before me."
This one may have come as quite a surprise to people who had grown up in the pluralistic and polytheistic culture of the Egyptians. The One True God had no interest in being one of many. The most important prayer of the Jewish people today is the Shema which contains these words: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One."
Jealousy is His privilege over us. Before you judge Him for being a jealous God, we have to admit there is some jealousy that is good. I'm jealous for my wife's time, affection, and presence. I am jealous when other things compete with my time with my family. Those I love deepest are "mine", and I am theirs. This isn't about possessiveness; it's covenant.
He is a jealous God. There are no other gods in addition to Yahweh, and yet we are inclined to give our hearts to them anyway. The first commandment is about the order of the universe, the source of life, and our loyalty to God. God does not want competition for the affections of the human heart.
At the heart of this Law is love, and as we will learn, God does nothing -- absolutely nothing -- without covenant.
Next week: "Two".